We're through our summer installment of the Top 25 Under 25, our most widely debated installment to date. The discussion has been spirited but our panel and most of our readers agree that the grouping, not the order, is correct. But what about the group outside of the Top 25?
We surveyed the panel and asked them "Out of the group of players including Chris VandeVelde, Tyler Bunz, Gilbert Brule, Tobias Rieder, Kyle Bigos, Milan Kytnar, Toni Rajala, Philippe Cornet, Martin Gernat, Johan Motin, Drew Czerwonka, Ryan O'Marra, Antti Tyrvainen, Taylor Fedun, Kristians Pelss, Frans Tuohimaa, Travis Ewanyk, Mark Arcobello, Robby Dee, Kellen Jones, Cameron Abney, Troy Hesketh, and Alexander Bumagin, which player is most likely to play 200 games (or in Brule's case 200 more games) in the NHL?"
Ryan Batty: Seems like a pretty long shot for any of that group to get 200 games. If I had to place a bet though I'd put my money on Chris VandeVelde. Decent size and his game seems like a good fit for a fourth line but it's probably a stretch to play him much higher than that. If he could show some flair for killing penalties that would be a real advantage for him too.
Jonathan Willis: There are four guys outside the top-25 that I like: Tyler Bunz, Gilbert Brule, Tobias Rieder and Milan Kytnar, but each of them comes with a caveat. I think injuries are going to kill Brule's career sometime before he plays 200 more games than he has already. Rieder's got nice potential but is years away - too far away to try and project. Bunz suffers for a few reasons: it's harder for a goalie to hit 200 games than it is for a skater, and it's also not uncommon for an elite junior goaltender to turn into a shooter tutor at the professional level. Kytnar is buried at the moment and might not bring enough offense to ever get a legitimate shot at an NHL job. In the end, I'm going to give due consideration to inertia and say Brule, because he's the guy closest to steady NHL employment right now.
Scott Reynolds: I'll pick Antti Tyrväinen. He showed enough offense in Finland last year that a third or fourth line role in the NHL seems possible, especially since, at 22, he's young enough to qualify as a prospect, which means he's more likely to get a shot if he plays well. He seems to have a good understanding of his role (shit-disturber), and while that kind of player is almost always universally detested by opposing fans, when he can actually play a bit too, NHL teams are happy to make room on the roster.
Jaysen Knight: Tobias Rieder: Short but not small. Just enough skill and grit so as to not be a liability or be forgotten. Nationality will get him extra development and more high profile games in. A guy like that sometimes sticks around in the game long enough to get a few looks and if he gets lucky with the right linemates in the right situation OR he develops a role for himself that carries through to the NHL level then he is a guy who may just play a whole lot of games before he is through.
Bruce McCurdy: I like Rieder myself, for all his numbers weren’t great they weren’t bad at all for a new import in his draft year. He may well wind up in Europe though. But I’ll invest my electrons and my wild-assed guess in Chris VandeVelde. I think his size and faceoff skills are going to earn him a few call-ups, and he could catch on as a bottom sixer in one of them. I wouldn’t say he has the biggest upside, but his chances of playing 200 GP don’t seem unrealistic at this point.
Derek Zona: I had a very difficult time ranking Bigos because so little is known about him. I think if he were in a larger media market, everyone would rate him much higher than they are now. In fact, if I had to guess, I think he's going to be one of the biggest movers in one of the next two installments of the Top 25 Under 25. We know he's massive (Bruce was a bit shocked when he saw him up close at development camp), he skates well for a big man, he hits like a mack truck, he's an excellent NCAA penalty killer, and he's willing to drop the gloves to defend an opponent. If he gets his footing in the NHL, it will be nearly impossible for him not to find work. If he's 6'5", 240 lbs. and has enough tangible skill to contribute to an NHL team, he'll blow through 200 games in no time.